CZECH REPUBLIC - Czech pension funds were little affected by last year's global financial crisis as they reported an average performance of 3.2% for the last quarter of 2007, similar to the 3.5% in the previous year.

Assets in the 10 funds rose from CZK136bn (€5.4bn) to CZK162bn while participant numbers increased by  just over 350,000 to almost four million people.

Similar to in previous years, the funds remained heavily invested in bonds with this asset class accounting for 73% of the average fund's portofolio with some pension companies investing 96% of their assets in bonds.

The best performing fund was the small CZK1.3bn Generali pension fund as it achieved a 4.4% return in the fourth quarter, followed by the CZK18.8bn ING fund with a 3.8% return.

Worst off was the Czech bank CSOB's fund, which had merged with the Zemsky fund last year, as the bank's Progres fund reported returns of only 2.6%.

No performance figures are yet available for Dutch insurer AEGON's fund which was only launched last summer.

But it has already won 11,000 members and CZK28m in contributions, albeit most of the money is not invested yet. (See earlier IPE story: AEGON picks up 'gap' Czech pensions business)

In its annual report, the Dutch insurer noted the costs of setting up pension funds in Romania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic last year amounted to €6m.

Nevertheless, pensions and asset management sales in AEGON's "other countries" department which includes Central and Eastern Europe, its Asian operations as well as Spain and France, went up by €218m to €579m over the last year.